ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, – “Last year when we were senior students, we decided to use the money for our tuition fees to start our company”, says Dulguunbayar M, aka Dulgoon, aged 21. He and his close friend Munkhtulga, aka Tulgaa, another 21-year-old student from the state university, founded a design and software agency before they’d even graduated.
Dulgoon studies law while Tulgaa majors in engineering, but they learned how to design and code by watching YouTube videos and tinkering with software on their own.
Fueled by their passion for technology and a commitment to their start-up, the two millennials are now renting a small office space in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, where they spend most of their time planning and executing their design projects. “As soon as we’re done with our school work, we go to the office and keep working on our projects. We have sleeping bags ready in case we need to pull an all-nighter, which happens regularly around here”, explains Tulgaa.
One of their projects is a mobile game called Life Hack, developed with the support of UNICEF and University of Waterloo, Canada. The two friends spotted a gap in the market when it came to advice on the issues that most concern young millennials – reproductive and mental health.
Mirroring the lives of global millennials, these two friends spent their adolescent years in a digital world where they admittedly struggled to navigate. “Growing up, we had no one to ask for advice, either in the real world or the virtual one, when it came to reproductive health issues. That’s why we decided to offer advice to adolescents through a mobile game – Life Hack”, explains Dulgoon. They plan to launch it in March 2019 – three months before they graduate.
The birth of Life Hack
In spring 2017, UNICEF called on young people to help address some of the most pressing issues in society – adolescent mental and sexual health – through a 72-hour “Hacking for Youth Health” hackathon. Bringing together young IT professionals and social scientists, the ideas was to encourage adolescents and young people to come up with their own innovative technological solutions. An experienced hackathon participant himself, Dulgoon formed a team including his current business partner Tulgaa, Suvdaa, a psychologist, Tergel, a finance student, and Enkhbat, who is studying law.
Through a series of brainstorming exercises and team activities, they came up with the idea of a role-playing mobile game featuring the real-life stories of adolescents and professional advice on the problems that teenagers go through. After 72 hours and a final pitch, they came first and won the chance of having their idea developed into a product.
After months of reconceptualizing the original idea, pitching it to partners and redesigning their approach and structure, they decided to turn their winning idea into a mobile game. “It takes many players like UNICEF, the University of Waterloo and government agencies to create this platform. It’s nice to have the support and true partnership of these organizations like UNICEF, University of Waterloo and the government agency. With all their support, I feel that I can’t fail the task”, explains Dulgoon, surrounded by piles of research papers and real-life stories that they have gathered from high schools around the city.
“To finish our projects on time, we’d go for two or three days without proper sleep or food, but that’s not what keeps us hungry”, says Dulgoon. “In Mongolia, 94 per cent of pupils are active Facebook users and there are more smartphones than the population of the entire city. Can you imagine what we can do once we tap into that pool? This idea is what keeps us hungry, focused and humble.”
Once they’ve launched the mobile game in March next year, they’re planning to develop an English version to enter the regional and perhaps even global market.
Says UNICEF Mongolia Representative Alex Heikens, “Mongolia is a young country, where 45.5 per cent of the population are young people under the age of 24 and 15 per cent are adolescents. Young people like Dulgoon and Tulgaa hold the key to the country’s development. They live in a world of unlimited potential, a world of mass connectivity, enhanced mobility and unprecedented technological progress. They are the epitome of generation unlimited”.
With 1.8 billion young people in the world, Generation Unlimited is a dynamic global partnership that draws on the expertise of young people, representatives from governments, multilateral organizations, the private sector and civil society to inspire urgent investment in education, skills training and empowerment for the rapidly growing global population of adolescents and young people aged between 10 and 24.
Generation Unlimited brings together partners to co-create and support solutions that are proven and have the potential to deliver results at scale, and to develop a platform to share knowledge and learning and provide young people with a space to engage and co-create.
Generation Unlimited – which contributes to the implementation of the United Nations’ Youth 2030 Strategy – will complement and build on existing programmes that support adolescents and young people.